With mobile wallets and contactless technology soaring in popularity even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of cash was beginning to dwindle, and its dominance began to wane worldwide. Now, the pandemic has accelerated the global transition toward a cashless economy, with question marks hanging over the safety of its physical usage.
Writing for Finextra, chief product and growth officer at GoCardless, Duncan Barrigan, highlighted that “swathes of the world’s population” have “shunned physical currency for fear of contracting the virus”. Indeed, the World Health Organization itself warned that the handling of banknotes could partly be responsible for the rate of infection, amid suggestions that Covid-19 can survive on the surface of paper and polymer notes for some days.
Albeit these claims were discredited, as Barrigan acknowledged, the impact has been telling. GoCompare Money has pointed out that 17.1 million people in the UK have avoided using cash because of concerns over health and safety, with contactless payments and online shopping becoming the preferred method across the world. In April, to help fuel the transition to cashless, the UK raised the upper limit for contactless payments from £30 to £45. In June, as retailers reopened, some only accepted card payments.
In the case of the charitable sector, even before the pandemic hit, the benefits of digital and contactless donations were being felt, as this medium enabled charities to cash in on spontaneous generosity from people who may happen upon charitable causes while surfing the web and then feel compelled to contribute to the cause.
With Covid-19 potentially accelerating the trend toward a cashless economy, it only solidifies the place for technologies that help make such transactions possible.
This is where firms like Wolverhampton’s Data Developments UK, specialists in finance and donations software for churches and charities, are in line to benefit from an increased demand in such technology.
Writing in The Parliamentary Review about the increasing relevance of digital and contactless charity and the benefits it can bring to charitable concerns, managing director Stephen Hendy said: “Digital and contactless giving captures spontaneous generosity, but charities also need technology to benefit. MyGiving.Online, our online donations platform, enables people to give using a ‘donate now’ button on the charity’s website, QR codes or through our mobile app. The software allows donors to manage their own giving, update personal details, make donations or produce a personal-giving tax statement, and the charity records are automatically updated. The Gift Aid and Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme claims are sent directly to HMRC, and record keeping, reporting and audit trails are all amended.
“Charities and churches ready to embrace the digital world can use our contactless terminals. These can be located either in or outside the organisation. People can ‘tap and go’ on the terminal – it is fast, secure and also provides the option to gift-aid the donation. The information goes directly into MyGiving.Online and, if gift-aided, is immediately claimable. People can donate quickly and easily even if they do not have any cash on them.”
As well as digital and contactless giving saving charities and churches both time and effort as Hendy makes clear, in a world where Covid remains an issue and where lockdown restrictions remain commonplace, face-to-face contact and the capacity to hold fundraising events is very much at a minimum. Consequently, remote charity becomes more of a necessity. Indeed, even in a scenario when one can safely attend church for example, they may not feel wholly comfortably handling cash and placing notes or coins into a donations box if they wish to give to charity. In one’s mind, simply making a contactless or digital transaction is not only quick and convenient, but safer, and can be carried out from a distance.
In the pre-pandemic world, digital and contactless donations were an operational convenience for charities and churches. In the post-Covid world, it could easily become the status quo. Data Developments UK happened to be ahead of the curve, and it can be expected that use of technology in charitable giving will only become more mainstream in the months and years to come.